Back in 2009, my mom and I went on a 2 week trip to Italy. It was my first time flying, my first time out of the country, and my first real test of packing. Like most people I didn’t want to pack too little, but I also didn’t want to deal with a carry-on plus checked luggage while traveling all around the country. I wanted to make sure I packed all the essentials, since I didn’t know what would be available once I got there. I ended up taking a carry-on size rolling suitcase to put it all in. Lots of people were amazed at how little we brought. By writing this article, I am not saying everyone needs to follow this advice, but I hope to inspire those that want to pack light.
It’s best to make a list of everything you want to take at least a week beforehand and add to it as you go to try to avoid missing anything when packing. Then you can check things off your list as you go. After you’ve made your list and before you start packing, go back through and see if there is anything you can live without.
Avoid taking a bunch of different items for entertainment. You may need a book or a word search to occupy your time if you have a long car or plane ride, but try to take the most compact items possible. After you get there, unless it is a beach vacation where you are going to sit and read all day, most likely you will be spending most of your time exploring and then going back to your hotel mainly to sleep. Therefore, there isn’t much need for so much entertainment stuff that you can use when you get back home.
Minimize your beauty tools. You want to look good, but no one really needs to take their whole hair and makeup selection with them while on vacation. Decide on one type of each product that you will use for the whole trip. Also consider different ways you can minimize products or tools needed to fix your hair. For example, you might put your hair in a ponytail rather than using a curling iron and the whole works.
Don’t pack a clothing item for each day. Clothing usually takes up the most space in a person’s suitcase. That can’t very well be changed. However, a shirt, pair of pants, and even underwear item for each day of the trip is not needed. Consider the fabrics of the items you are taking. On our trip we took a lot of shirts that were polyester or another quick-drying, minimal wrinkle fabric and then some travel size detergent packets so we could wash our shirts in the sink and have them dry quickly. Ladies bras and panties are also available in a number of quick-drying fabrics. Panty liners can also be used to help with cleanliness. Pants can come in quick-drying fabrics, but we mostly took jeans. Unless you are doing activities that cause your pants to become soiled with sweat or dirt, you should be able to wear a pair of jeans for at least 3 days without washing. Otherwise, check to see if your hotel has laundry facilities or if there are any available near where you are staying. Count the outfit you are wearing the day you are traveling to your destination as an outfit that you can wear more than once as well. As far as jackets, it depends on the weather where you are going, but try to take one that goes with everything. If all you need is a light jacket, windbreakers are great as they are easy to clean, fold up very compactly, and dry quickly if you get them wet.
Avoid extra accessories. A hat or necklace that you want to wear for most of the trip is ok, but avoid packing a lot of extra accessories to go with different outfits. Small items can become lost, and every accessory you add to your suitcase just takes up extra space. Plus, you never know if you might find something nice on the trip that you can wear instead.
Choose quality over quantity on souvenirs. You may be wondering how we had any room for souvenirs when packing just a carry-on. We bought some but not a lot of souvenirs. I try to go for quality rather than quantity. A lot of souvenirs you find in the shops are things made in some other country that you can buy pretty much anywhere else, just with a different city name or point of interest printed on it. A lot of that type stuff I see ends up in a thrift store. I try to go for things that are authentic and unique to the places I go that I want to keep forever. For example, in Venice, I bought a mask that was actually handmade by a local artist. Many places will actually ship more expensive items back to your home, so you don’t have to risk getting them broken in your suitcase. The mask made it home just fine packed between my clothes, though. If you like to buy shirts, a couple extra shouldn’t be too hard to fit in your suitcase, or you can always take one less shirt with you if you expect to buy one. Souvenirs like handmade necklaces, soaps, and other small items don’t take up much room. Also, I recommend that you take lots of pictures, which are my favorite souvenir as they are free once you have your camera, batteries, and memory card and help you remember parts of your trip that you may have forgotten. If you wish, you can commemorate your trip by having your pictures printed on all sorts of photo gifts such as wall canvases, mousepads, calendars, blankets, and more.
Following the above advice made for a lot better experience for us as we didn’t waste valuable time waiting on baggage claim, didn’t have big suitcases to lug around, and didn’t have to spend extra money on checked bags and worry whether they were going to make it to the destination with us. We didn’t feel like we packed too little as we had all that we really needed. If you are looking to pack light, I hope I gave you some good inspiration. I wish you safe and happy travels!